Gators roll past Georgia Tech, on to Sweet 16 vs. No. 2 Virginia

Florida's Alfredo Perez returns a ball during a doubles match against Florida Gulf Coast during the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Tennis Championship at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex, in Gainesville Friday May 12, 2017.

Brad McClenny/Staff Photographer
Published: Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 10:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 10:02 p.m.

It's on to Athens for the 15th-ranked Florida men's tennis team.

The Gators improved to 19-9 on the year with a 4-0 win over a determined Georgia Tech squad Saturday, moving UF on to the NCAA Round of 16 hosted by the University of Georgia next weekend.

“I think that we were well-prepared and our guys have been working really hard, especially these last couple of weeks, to prepare for this," UF coach Bryan Shelton said. "Something that we really wanted to do is to move on in the tournament and advance to Athens to the Final 16 site, but wanting to do something and doing the things that are necessary to make it happen are two different things. Our guys did the things that they needed to do to be successful. I'm just really proud of them.”

While the Gators prevailed by the same final score they did in Friday's tournament opener against FGCU, that was the only similarity.

The Yellow Jackets (18-8) battled UF toe-to-toe, and had not Florida pulled out a hard-fought doubles point, this one might have gone right down to the wire.

Georgia Tech was one point away from a win at No. 1 singles when UF clinched and was in good position in the two remaining singles matches as well.

But thanks to the play of players like senior Elliott Orkin, who teamed with fellow senior Maxx Lipman for a big win at No. 2 doubles and then was the first person to finish his singles match with a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 2, Florida stayed alive to play another day.

“Whether you're a freshman or a senior, it's always nice to move on to the Round of 16 and get to the final site with all the best teams in the country,” Orkin said. “But especially with it being my last season, of course I wanted to make it to Athens this year. I'm happy I was able to contribute to the team and get a point on the board in singles and doubles.

“Even though it was my last match here, it wasn't about me today. It was about the team, and in the end, we got the job done.”

After Orkin's win made it 2-0, Chase Perez-Blanco finished off a 6-4, 6-1 win at No. 3 singles to put the Gators one point away from victory.

Freshman Johannes Ingildsen provided it moments later by closing out a 6-1, 7-5 win at No. 5 singles.

Next up, the Gators will square off against the tournament's No. 2 seed, Virginia, Thursday at 9 a.m.

The Cavaliers (30-1), who are making their 14th straight appearance in the Round of 16, handed UF its final defeat last season in the NCAA Quarterfinals and also defeated the Gators earlier this season at home.

Shelton, however, is not about to concede anything.

“I feel like we're playing our best tennis of the year right now, and I think that patience and being willing to wait for it a little bit has paid off,” Shelton said. “I just think we did a tremendous job today and we're finally getting there. We're moving on.”

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